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If yahapalana govt. had arrested Zahran over incidents prior to Easter Sunday carnage, many lives could have been saved – Sarath

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By Saman Indrajith

Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (retd) Sarath Weerasekera on Wednesday (23) told Parliament that those who made public statements on Easter Sunday terror attacks without sharing such information with investigators would be summoned by the CID to record statements.

Participating in a debate on a motion by the Opposition that victims of the Easter Sunday terror attacks have not been served justice, the Minister said that if anyone had any information about the Easter attacks, it was his or her duty to report such information to the police and share them with the investigators. “It is wrong and illegal for them to make statements to the media without sharing those facts and details with the investigators. Such actions will affect investigations and create undue suspicions among people. Hence the CID will summon them to elicit information. In the same manner, anyone who feels that he or she is wrongly accused by those giving voice cuts, can complain to the CID so that the CID could investigate those false statements. He or she also has the right to seek legal redress in this regard.

“The motion being debated here states that justice has not been served to the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks. It is also said that the government is trying to silence those who raise their voice against it. This is wrong. The victims in this instance were those innocent Catholics who came to pray in the churches and innocent Sri Lankans and foreigners who were in the hotels at the time of the attacks.

They were the victims of a suicide bombing orchestrated by Zahran and his group. These attacks took place because Zahran and his group were not taken into the custody by the former government authorities in fear of losing Muslim votes.

“There had been eight incidents before the Easter Sunday attacks and the attackers should have been arrested. Zahran’s younger brother Rilwan was injured while testing explosives. Three months later two police officers were killed and their weapons taken away in Vavunathivu. Then a month later the Buddha statues in Mawanella were desecrated. A month later, a large stockpile of explosives and about 100 detonators were seized in Wanathawillua.

“Two months later, Thaslin, who provided security authorities with information about Zahran and his group, was shot and seriously injured. A month later, a motorcycle fitted with a bomb was exploded by way of a test run. Thereafter, the Easter attacks took place.

“It is ridiculous to say that this government has not served justice for the victims. It is even more ridiculous that this allegation is made by those who did nothing to prevent those incidents. They could have investigated those eight preceding incidents and taken Zahran and his men into custody to prevent the attacks so that there would not have been any victims.

“We have helped the injured survivors of the Easter Sunday tragedy receive treatment and compensation. If they need anything more, we are ready to grant their requests. It is also our responsibility to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice and to do justice to the victims.

“We are doing everything possible for their sake. The former government could not do anything meaningful for seven months after the attacks. No suspects had been detained on detention orders. Only a group of suspects had been arrested

“But after this government came to power, we made arrests. Today, there are 74 suspects in remand while 27 are held on detention orders. The investigations are in progress in a systematic manner. This government has taken all necessary steps to ensure that all intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies take independent action against individuals involved in that heinous crime.

“We have taken steps to bring back 52 Sri Lankan nationals from foreign countries. They have been directly and indirectly involved in extremist activities. We have done so with the help of foreign intelligence services. To date, 74 accused have been indicted in ten High Courts. One case has been filed before the Gampaha High Court, two in Kandy, two in the Kurunegala High Court, four in the Puttalam High Court, two in Kegalle, two in Galle, one in Kalmunai, two in Nuwara-Eliya, and thus 24 cases in ten High Courts against the 74 accused.

Similarly, cases have been filed against 23 persons including Naufer Moulavi in Colombo on 23,270 charges, 21 cases have been filed in Kegalle and 14 in Puttalam. Other countries that have been the target of such terrorist attacks had taken five to 20 years to file such cases.

“We have banned 11 local organisations and two international organisations that nurture extremism and terrorist ideology. Also, persons suspected of extremist attacks have been blacklisted under the United Nations Act No. 45 of 1968.

“The federal court in Los Angeles has filed a lawsuit against Naufer Moulavi, Mohamed Riskan and Mohamed Millhan, who were the main accused in the attack. The Attorney General provides legal assistance in this regard. Legal action has been taken against three Australians of Sri Lankan origin involved in spreading extremism in Sri Lanka in connection with this attack.

“Steps have been taken to confiscate their properties in this country. Legal action has also been against four Maldivian nationals who had links to the Easter attackers. We have also taken steps to confiscate the assets of the National Thowhee Jamaath, which was responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.

More than 110,000 phone calls have been analysed.

“Some Opposition MPs spoke of the mastermind of the Easter attacks. According to the evidence we have, the mastermind is none other than Naufer Moulavi, who went to Qatar in 1997 and became an extremist. In 2006, Darul Adar, an organisation was founded in Kattankudy to spread extremism.

In 2008, Naufer went back Qatar to work as an Arabic-English translator. He delivered extremist lectures to Sri Lankans in Qatar. He married off Hidayah, the daughter of his wife’s sister to Zahran.

He was in charge of the ISIS branch in Sri Lanka after 2014. In 2016, Zaharan was conscripted for creating an Islamic state. The Moulavis around Zahran were ideologically driven. Through Zahran, his brother Rilwan, along with Zhaini, mobilised people through social media to work towards creating an Islamic state.

Hadiya’s brother says that Naufer was behind all this. Before the Zahran’s attack, they created a video where they said they were carrying out attacks for the sake of the IS sacrificing their lives for the Caliphate. In addition, if you know of any other mastermind, please let us know”.



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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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ADB country chief hopes Lanka could sustain policy reforms despite elections

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Takafumi Kadono

ECONOMYNEXT –The Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects Sri Lanka not to reverse its International Monetary Fund-led policy reforms despite elections soon, the ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono said.

The island nation has witnessed repeated reversals of policy reforms in the past due to greedy politicians who misled  the people to vote for them by sowing the seeds of subsidy mentality with unsustainable debts at expensive borrowing costs, economists say.

That led the country into an unprecedented economic crisis in 2022 with a sovereign debt default. Sri Lanka is still struggling to come out of the crisis.

The IMF has strictly placed some reforms including in state sector enterprises, fiscal and monetary sectors.

Sri Lanka has implemented the painful IMF reforms so far including higher personal income taxes, but economists have raised concerns over the sustainability of the current reforms due to possible changes in the policies in the event of a new president or government comes to power after democratic elections.

“If that kind of reversal happens, we also cannot justify our support,” ADB Country Director for Sri Lanka Takafumi Kadono told EconomyNext on late on Wednesday.

“We do expect these policy reforms to be sustained. So that is our expectation. That is the premise which we are providing our budget support. If they reverse, the whole premise will be collapsed. That kind of policy reversal cannot happen.”

The island nation had sought IMF bailout package for 17 times including the ongoing support. However, the authorities have failed to complete most of the past IMF loan disbursements due to politically motivated contradiction with the global lender’s tight fiscal policies.

Sri Lanka has shown some signs of recovery in the third quarter of 2023 with the economic growth turned to positive from contraction for the first time in seven quarters.

However, opposition political parties have promised to revisit the IMF deal if they come to power.

Higher taxes, soaring cost of living, and lack of salary hike have made President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government unpopulour among the public, analysts say.

Wickremesinghe has said the country will hold both presidential and parliamentary election by 2025.

Some government politicians have told EconomyNext that the higher taxes would be eased from April and the authorities will try their best to meet the IMF conditions for the third disbursement in June this year.

The presidential polls should be held by October this year, but opposition parties have said President Wickremesinghe is in the process to delay the poll.

However, Wickremesinghe’s office last week said Presidential Election will be held “within the mandated period”, without giving an exact time.It also said the General Election will be held next year, “according to the current timeline”.

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